Thursday, July 31, 2008

Masei: righting a wrong

Parshat Masei

In 35:5-6 the representatives of the tribe of Menashe come complaining that by giving Tzlafchad's portion in Israel to his daughters, they are hurting the tribe of Menashe - the girls will marry out, and the land will follow them to the husbands tribe.

Moshe agrees and makes a stipulation that the girls should only marry within the tribe of Menashe.

Why did Moshe not respond to them that it is too late - they should have argued this when he first brought the issue up before God? Nobody mentioned such an issue then, so what right do they have to limit the girls now after the case has already been decided and closed?

A person has to not be afraid to do the right thing. Even if that means re-visiting something previously decided. Even if it means looking at something previously discussed in a new light. If something was done unjustly, it should be fixed. The wrong must be righted. If there is a way to do so, if the wrong can possibly be righted, even if it seems unfair, like to impose conditions on Tzlafchad's daughters well after they were given their freedom, a person must have the courage to step in and right that wrong.

That is what Moshe did. Yes, he had already told the girls the inheritance is theirs. Now he heard of a new issue and had to find a way to make sure his previous decision did not hurt the greater community, and that required imposing a new condition. It is never too late to right a wrong.


The Way said...

what a pilpul.

Here is another point of view: Here we have one of the only feminist issues in the bible. Out of all the times women are treated as second class citizens in the bible, as property, these women are typically held up as an example of gender equality.

Yet the afterward to women being able to inherit, which was not a cut and dry issue to begin with, as women are akin to property, but the moment a man is afraid a women will cause him a loss of money/property she must be subjducated to transfer the inheritance back to a man.
So while we agree that this can be read as a righting a wrong, the wrong here is apparantly that women have some rights. But they took care of that.

Rafi G said...

1. The property would have reverted back to the men anyway - they would have married and their husbands would have taken control of it, regardless of who they married. This amendment made it so that it stayed in Menashe's jurisdiction and could not be transferred out to a different tribes.

This did not take it from them and give it to men. If you look at it like that, it was the mens all along. So this still righted the wrong.

2. They could have argued and debated. Maybe in th ened they would have had to give in, maybe not. But we know they had the power, the gumption, and the cojones to argue their case before Moshe and God, and they won the first time they brought their case forth. Who is to say they could not have argued this time? Who is to say they would not again have won their case?
But they chose not to. They accepted the amendment as is.